Clothed With Humility

If God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble (Ja 4:6), then humbling ourselves as much as we can is essential (1Pe 5:6), the key to God’s way. What is humility, why don’t I pursue it, and how do I grow here?

Christ in Gethsemane, The Passion of the Christ

Humility is having a servant’s heart, focusing on God and others rather than myself. And when I do happen to think of myself, thinking realistically, not more highly than I ought (Ro 12:3), comparing myself with Christ, not my neighbor. It’s being poor in spirit, needing infinite mercy (Lk 18:13), and being afflicted in this. (Jas 4:9)

Even though there’s nothing good in me I can take credit for (Ro 7:18), humility often seems distasteful, repugnant; in being childlike (Mt 18:4), lowly, less significant before Man (Php 2:5), I feel vulnerable, less valued, yet this was where my Savior found rest, and calls me to follow. (Mt 11:29)

Food for humility is found in Messiah’s Cross: I’ve nothing else to glory in. (Gal 6:14) That cross is for me, and I very much deserve it. But Jesus Christ humbles Himself there (Php 2:8), taking my place and giving Himself to rescue me. (Gal 1:4) When I’m prompted by the enemy to be satisfied in my goodness (Is 64:6), smug in my knowledge, safe in my self-sufficiency, exalted in my own talents and wisdom (Je 9:23-24), I can look to Yeshua (He 12:2) and remember where I’d be without Him. (1Co 1:29-31)

Knowing God is both my Judge and Defender; He frees me from fear and shame to rejoice in God, to be preoccupied with God and others (Php 2:4), to esteem others better than myself, to be clothed with humility. (1Pe 5:5)

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God Is Kind

God is good, benevolent and merciful to all (Ps 117:2), so it’s tempting to confuse answered prayer and temporal blessing with divine approval, thinking God’s kindness implies His validation. We may be like that, but not God.

God loves His enemies; He’s kind to the unthankful and to the evil (Lk 6:35), and often showers the wicked with earthly blessings and health. (Ps 73:3-7) In fact, God may often answer prayer that’s abominable to Himself. (Pr 28:9) There’s no strict correlation between God’s provision for us and His approval of us.

God knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust until the day of judgment to be punished. (2Pe 2:9) By afflicting the righteous He teaches us His ways (Psa_119:67 71), so it would seem that one way He reserves the wicked for judgement is by blessing them and giving them what they want in this life.

If God is answering the prayers of the wicked we shouldn’t be envious (Ps 37:1-2), nor find satisfaction in Him paving their way to destruction. (Pr 24:17-18) God takes no pleasure in the ruin of the lost (Ez 33:11); we should be weeping for them (Php 3:18-19), esteeming others better than ourselves.

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The Wicked Flee

How do we react when someone accuses us of wrongdoing? Do we welcome the opportunity to grow, or do we become defensive, retaliatory and evasive? Do we engage and listen patiently looking for righteous closure, or do we immediately flee, departing moral grounds without seeking proper resolution? (Pr 28:1)

When the wicked are blamed they don’t stop and prayerfully search their hearts. They justify themselves (Lk 16:15) without hearing their accuser out (Pr 18:13), they blame-shift and/or retaliate to turn the focus away from themselves, or they ignore accusation as unworthy of their time. (Ps 50:17) Not wanting to actually be upright, but only to appear so on the surface (Mt 23:28), they feel vulnerable and weak on moral grounds, so they turn tail and run when approached for inspection.

The righteous are in the habit of asking God to help them search their own hearts (Ps 139:23-24) and cleanse them of faults they don’t yet know about (Ps 19:12), so they approach accusation entirely differently: as a win-win. Confident God is seeking their good and that He loves them unconditionally, they hope to find some merit in their accuser’s claim, as if in a gold mine looking for gems. (Pr 8:10) If they can find any truth at all in it, they see a precious source of instruction to enable them in the way of life. (Pr 6:23) Otherwise, knowing God’s their defender, when they find accusation entirely groundless, the wise see an opportunity to help free another soul of confusion, misunderstanding, lies and deceit. (Ja 5:20) The righteous have nothing to lose and everything to gain; they remain in moral ground bold as a lion(Pr 28:1)

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Of Man’s Judgement

Our ability to intimidate through accusation is stunning; it puts metaphysical reality on display real time. When accused of wrongdoing we’re troubled, so the enemy’s often falsely accusing us (Re 12:10), sometimes in our spirits and often through others. It makes most of us instinctively defensive, for living under unwarranted or excessive guilt or shame can damage us. (Ps 123:3-4) Why is it so powerful?

Evidently, this is one of the primary ways we reflect God’s image; He’s the ultimate Lawgiver, Accuser and Judge (Ja 4:12), and He’s designed us with similar power to create shame in others, even through unjust criticism. (Ps 119:22) Perhaps it’s a hint at what’s to come.

God will ultimately invite saints to preside in judgement over the angels; He empowers believers in community to judge between each other even now. (1Co 6:3) It’s unfathomable authority. In the end, the elect will join with God in condemning all outside Himself. (Lk 11:31-32)

While we all have this power, our judgement is often clouded and biased, limited in wisdom, understanding and justice. (1Co 4:3) When others accuse us we should humbly search our hearts (Ps 119:51) while looking to God for help (Ps 119:39), and comfort ourselves if we can’t yet see how we’re missing God’s standard. (Ps 119:52) Knowing His righteous decree will ultimately prevail and that He faithfully afflicts us (Ps 119:75), we trust He will teach us how to align ourselves with Him. (Ps 119:66)

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Too Painful

When I lose sleep over injustice, and recently it seems to be often, I know I’m not handling it well — it’s too painful for me (Ps 73:16); I’m letting the enemy steal my joy. (Php 4:6) It’s time for a little reminder: God is just. (Pr 2:8)

What if God always rewarded good and evil with immediate pleasure or pain,BarnStorm training us like Pavlov’s dogs? We’d never know the depravity of the human heart … or the goodness of God.

In order to fully reveal Himself God must allow evil to go unchecked for a season; this exposes the human heart, and provides Jehovah a venue to glorify Himself. (Ro 9:22-23) The season may be longer than we’d like, but it’s a necessity.

I remind myself that God is faithful; He will bring every secret thing out into light; all will be revealed (Mk 4:22), dealt with and straightened out. (Lk 3:5-6) He may not be as prompt we’d like, but He’s perfectly just (Ro 2:2) and His timing’s always best. (Ps 104:31) My focus is to walk worthy of Christ, in intimate fellowship with God, and leave the rest to Him. (Ro 14:4)

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What If God?

Why does God allow so much evil, pain and suffering in the world? We know instinctively that He could stop it … but He doesn’t — so we’re tempted to doubt His goodness. What could be His motive?

Well, what would it be like if God never allowed anything bad to happen? Sure, there’d be no sin or suffering, but what would we know about God or ourselves?

We’d never know He was preventing evil and suffering … would we? We’d never FireyTreeexperience His mercy or patience; we’d know nothing of His sacrificial love or His willingness to suffer with us, or of His justice, wrath and holiness … or of our own selfishness and depravity … and very little of His wisdom and power. It would be pleasant for sure, but rather dull … uninteresting … boring. There’d be no contrast.

By allowing evil God has been revealing both Himself and everything outside Himself; this is actually His motive in Creation: the more evil He allows the more we know about Him and ourselves. (Ro 9:22-23)

Will knowing God intimately be worth it all in the end? Evidently, God thinks so … and He’s already there (Is 57:15) … bringing forth unspeakable beauty from all the brokenness. (Is 61:3, 1Pe 1:7)

The truth is, God hasn’t responded to most of the evil in the world yet, but He will one Day. (Ac 17:31) Just because we haven’t seen full justice doesn’t mean we won’t. And if the little we’ve seen of His response so far is any indication, it will be utterly amazing, glorious beyond description. (Re 20:11)

Meanwhile, God has shown us enough to help us rejoice in Him, to trust Him implicitly and confidently, and to glory in Him alone. (Je 9:23-24) Let’s do so, believing He will never break a promise, be unfaithful, or a disappointment in the end. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1Co 2:9)

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Love Your Enemies

Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” (Mt 5:44) Perhaps it’s the cornerstone of all godliness, actively seeking the good of others, even those who’d harm us.

The Passion of the Christ

This is unnatural, certainly; it denies our self-protective instinct. Returning good for evil enables and strengthens our enemies to harm us even more. Yet it is our God’s example. (Mt 5:45)

Living this way as a manner of life requires an energy from another world, a Life beyond our own. It is perhaps the greatest witness of the reality of God, that we commit our physical care into His hands, just as we have our souls and spirits. (1Pe 4:19) It is only then that we live as children of our heavenly Father.

There is a time to resist abuse, and a time to suffer according to the will of God. It is the wisdom of God to tell these apart, but there is never a time to wish ill to another. (Ro 13:10) Let us not fear to follow God in suffering for His name, for our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. (2Co 4:16-18)

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As Bound With Them

A week ago I stood at the entrance of Stutthoff Concentration Camp near Gdansk Poland, where countless souls passed to humiliation, torture and death during WWII at the hands of Hitler’s ruthless minions. As I read the accounts of their pain, and stood where they were actually brutalized, I realized again that I know very little of suffering.

Stutthoff
Me at Stutthoff Concentration Camp

Many of these dear souls were doubtless my brothers and sisters in the faith, who couldn’t just turn a blind eye to the malice against their Jewish neighbors, and others in Hitler’s sadistic disfavor. I wondered if I’d have been strong enough to stand with them. What an evil day that was!

In He 13:3 we are commanded to remember those who are suffering as if we are suffering with them. This high calling of God is not for the faint of heart; it takes supernatural strength to live like this. It is where God Himself dwells, suffering with His people. It seems to me an inevitable cure for all selfishness, arrogance, self-sufficiency, lukewarmness and hardness of heart.

Such evil days are upon us again, as many suffer under the brutal onslaughts of Islam. I ask for grace to connect with this suffering as if it were upon me, and if I live to see the same myself, that God will give me grace to suffer well, to walk worthy of Him, Whose goodness I cannot deserve.

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Walk Worthy

What kind of life does one lead to be counted among the 24 elders encircling God’s throne? What would that be like, a front row seat in His immediate presence, God’s inner circle, enjoying Him for eternity? (Re 4:10-11)

lighttim
Tunnel of light, Arizona

Then again, what could Jesus Christ possibly gain from inviting the likes of someone like me to sit with Him in His very throne, to rule and reign with Him? Yet this is His incredible promise to all who overcome. (Re 3:21)

But why long for a seat before the throne of God … or even a place beside Him in His throne … when I have God Himself? What more can I possibly desire when God grants me as intimate a fellowship with Himself as I can possibly stand … as if I were the only one in Heaven … for the endless eons of time? To have my God … is to have all.

What an unspeakable privilege to know this infinite, unfathomable God, and to be known of Him! (Je 9:24) Oh my soul … “that ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory!(1Th 2:12) Is any way too narrow, or any path too difficult for me to walk with Christ down here, when I see Him before me at the end (He 12:2), in all of His unsearchable richness? (Ep 3:8)

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Our Light Affliction

The apostle Paul suffered greatly for Christ’s sake (Acts 9:16), yet he called it “our light affliction.” (2Co 4:17) What perspective did Paul have that moved him to rejoice in his sufferings?

Majesty

Paul knew that all temporal suffering is “but for a moment” when compared to eternity, unworthy to even be compared with the glories that will be revealed in us. (Rom 8:18) Christ suffers in and with us in all our tribulations for a glorious purpose, and Paul counted it a privilege to be the medium through which Christ chose to suffer (Col 1:24); there Paul found priceless fellowship with God. (Php 3:10)

God is constantly choosing to suffer fiercely. Though we cannot yet see all the glory He plans for Himself in this, we should count it a fantastic privilege whenever He invites us to join Him. Our only chance to love Christ sacrificially is now, in this life — in Heaven it will be too late. When we see His nail pierced hands and experience the infinite love of God in person, what will we not give for one more moment back down here among His enemies … to show Him what He means to us?

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